Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • President Obama Speaks at the National Women's Law Center Annual Awards Dinner

    President Obama Speaks at the National Women's Law Center Annual Awards Dinner on November 9, 2011. This year's dinner celebrated the 50th anniversary of the women freedom riders.

    Download Video: mp4 (204MB) | mp3 (20MB)


  • Protecting Our Nation’s Youth

    Ed note: This blog was cross-posted from the White House Blog.

    For many kids, their first cigarette leads to a lifetime of addiction, and for many, serious disease. With 20 percent of U.S. high school students smoking, keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors can have a huge impact on our nation’s health now and in the future. That’s why President Obama and his Administration are committed to doing all we can to stop kids from smoking. 

    We took an important step toward achieving that goal when the Food and Drug Administration issued more than 1,200 warning letters to retailers for selling tobacco to kids. The letters come after we conducted more than 27,500 inspections nationwide. Most retail store owners follow the law and don’t sell cigarettes to kids, but we’re reminding those who don’t that they have a responsibility to follow the law and that there are serious consequences if they fail to do so.   

    You can search our database of inspection reports for tobacco retailers by name and location to see how your community checks out. You can also take the pledge to protect our nation’s children by supporting retailers who follow the law and do not sell cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to youth. Let your local establishments know you appreciate their efforts to protect our kids. 

    These kinds of activities are just a part of our campaign to stop children from smoking. President Obama was proud to sign the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which gives us new tools to help stop young people from smoking before they start. Those tools include graphic warning labels that make the danger of smoking abundantly clear. Big tobacco companies are trying to stand in the way of these commonsense measures to protect our kids, but we’re confident their attempts will ultimately fail. 

    We know our campaign against tobacco is a ‘winnable battle’. It is a public health challenge where the strategies to address it are proven and in-hand.  We have the science. Under President Obama, we have the leadership and commitment. And now, more than ever, we have the laws and policies that will allow us to protect the health of our nation’s kids.

    Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

  • Council on Women and Girls Weekly Highlights

    Welcome to the Council on Women and Girls Weekly Highlights. If you have friends or family who would like to support the efforts of the Council on Women and Girls, please visit our website and share this link with others on Facebook and Twitter.

    Big News - Tonight, President Obama will be speaking at the National Women’s Law Center Annual Awards Dinner. You can watch the President live at 8:30 p.m. Eastern as he discusses the issues we care about most.

    President Obama has spent much of the last week fighting at home and abroad for a strong economic future for all Americans. He continued to stress that We Can’t Wait for Congress to take action, and announced a series of actions to streamline government processes and support economic growth. The President announced important steps to improve the quality of services and accountability at Head Start centers across the country. The White House also highlighted what a jobs act looks like and published an interactive map that details specifics of the Act.

    On Thursday, November 3rd, the President traveled to France for a meeting of the G20-- a gathering of 20 nations that represent the world's most important industrialized economies. In addition to working sessions with the full assembly of leaders, the President also held bilateral talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    Back at home, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to join Governor, Bev Perdue, and women from across the state to speak about Empowering Women and Girls at the North Carolina Governor’s Conference for Women.

    Twitter Q&A with MomsRising

    On Tuesday, members of Momsrising, participated in a “Twitter Q&A” with Jon Carson, the Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Women from across the country sent great questions on a variety of issues, including the American Jobs Act. Also, check out an additional conversation on Domestic Violence at, for a Q&A with Jon Carson and Rachael Yamagata.

    Check Out This Video

    First Lady Michelle Obama takes the stage after a performance by The Young People's Chorus of New York City during the President's Council on the Arts and Humanities Youth Event in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 2, 2011.

    Looking for Female Campus Leaders

    The White House Office of Public Engagement is proud to announce the first ever Campus “Champions of Change” Challenge. The Challenge invites college and university students from across the country to demonstrate how their student-led project is improving their campus community and helping America Win the Future. The deadline for applications is Friday, December 9, 2011. The Challenge finalists will be invited to a concluding event in spring 2012 and will also be highlighted by mtvU and MTV Act.

    White House Fellows Program – Now Accepting Applications

    The White House Fellows Program is the nation’s most prestigious program for leadership and public service. Founded in 1964 by President Johnson as a way to promote public service and engage emerging leaders, Fellows spend one year in Washington, DC working in the offices of Cabinet Secretaries, senior White House staff, and other high level Executive Branch officials. Alumni include General Colin Powell, the Ambassador to El Salvador Mari Carmen Aponte, and historian/author Doris Kearns Goodwin.

    Applications for the White House Fellows Program are currently available online. The deadline for completed applications is January 13, 2012. You can learn more about the Program during an interactive live video chat on Thursday, November 10th at 12:00 p.m. Eastern or view it at a later date online. For more detailed information, you can visit the White House Fellows website.


    20111108 Head Start Announcement

    President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, right, talk with students while visiting a classroom at the Yeadon Regional Head Start Center in Yeadon, Pa., Nov. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Our Children Can’t Wait: New Regulations Increase Accountability and Boost Quality in Head Start

    Partnering with Australia to Stop Violence Against Women
    Announcing the Winners of the Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge

    Text4baby Shows Promising Results for Moms

    A mother and daughter sharing a meal in GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals Program

    A mother and daughter sharing a meal in GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals Program. (Photo by Alain McLaughlin)

    The Office of Public Engagement Champion Non-Profit of the Week: GLIDE

    An “Eco-Renaissance” Woman

    First Lady Michelle Obama Talks Healthy Habits with Toddlers

    Fort Monroe Becomes a National Monument
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    Avra Siegel is the Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.


  • Our Children Can’t Wait: New Regulations Increase Accountability and Boost Quality in Head Start

    20111108 Head Start Announcement

    President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, right, talk with students while visiting a classroom at the Yeadon Regional Head Start Center in Yeadon, Pa., Nov. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Ed note: This blog was cross-posted from the White House Blog.  

    We know that the first years of our children’s lives are critical. That’s when the most rapid development happens in their brains and when they pick up the social, emotional, and academic skills that will help them succeed.  When children get what they need during these early years, it can lay the foundation for success in school and through every stage of their lives.

    President Obama and HHS’s announcement today of historic reforms to the Head Start program will help to ensure that all children in Head Start are attending top-notch programs that will help them reach their full potential. The Department of Health and Human Services will implement new rules that will – for the first time in the program’s history– require all Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous quality benchmarks to compete for continued federal funding.

    Under the new rules, programs that fall short of quality benchmarks will have to compete. We will put out a notice to all early education providers in their communities: If you can do better, you’ll get the Head Start funding.  And after the initial round of reviews, Head Start providers will continue to be evaluated every five years to make sure they’re maintaining a high standard of performance.

    The best Head Start programs do much more than teach kids their ABCs. They help children develop the self-control and critical thinking they need to become successful learners. They connect kids with essential health services like immunizations that they may otherwise go without. They get moms and dads engaged in their children’s education. They put kids on a path to opportunity.

    This rule is a key part of the President’s broader agenda to strengthen Head Start. In the last two years, we’ve also improved training for Head Start providers, provided mentors for programs that want to improve, and created 20 Centers of Excellence that are models for the rest of the Head Start community. Combined with this new system of evaluation and competition, Head Start providers today have more tools and more incentives to improve than ever before in the program’s history.

    In a world where the jobs follow the best trained workers, America’s capacity to lead the world will depend on our success in educating all of our children, including those most at risk for falling behind. The early years are critical to that success. This Administration will continue to work to make sure our children can grow up with the tools and experience they need to compete.

    Today’s Head Start children are tomorrow’s workforce.  Today we are taking a historic step toward making sure all children in Head Start get the top notch early education they need to succeed.

    Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Regional Town Hall Meetings Focus on Engaging Men in Ending Violence Against Women

    In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month this past October, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development collaborated to hold ten town hall events throughout the country on the topic of Engaging Men and Boys in Ending Violence Against Women.

    These town halls provided a unique opportunity for federal and community partners to participate in important discussions regarding the inclusion of men in ending violence against women and helped to further the efforts of those working tirelessly for this cause in local and regional communities across the nation.

  • Partnering with Australia to Stop Violence Against Women

    Last week I had the honor of making my first trip to Australia to lead the US delegation to the Pacific Women's Empowerment Policy dialogue on eliminating violence against women, co-hosted by Australia and the United States. This was the third such policy dialogue, following similar gatherings earlier this year on women's empowerment and women's economic security. This series was launched by the US and Australian governments almost exactly a year ago, and this particular initiative on stopping violence against Women was announced by Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her visit to the US on International Women’s Day in March 2011. Accompanying me to Canberra was Anita Botti, Deputy Director of the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.

    Tina Rudd Violence Against Women in Australia

    On Novermber 6th, 2011 Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd with Jeffrey L. Bleich, United States Ambassador to Australia with Tina Tchen, the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, at the opening of the dialogue for the 'Australia-US Pacific Women's Empowerment Policy Dialogue: Stopping Violence Against Women' initiative. November 7, 2011.

    We were joined by colleagues from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji,  Vanuatu, and other Pacific Island nations, as well as leaders from the Asian Development Bank, the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, the World Bank, and UN Women.

    The dialogue opened with an eloquent and passionate address by Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who spoke clearly to the importance of ending violence against women and girls.  In addition to confronting the role of men as perpetrators, he emphasized the significance of male opposition to violence against women. Our Australian hosts also included Kate Ellis, the Minister for the Status of Women, and Penny Williams, Australia’s newly appointed  first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.